Category Archives: Rights

Are EA’s Visual Representations in Madden Generic Enough to Avoid Liability in Publicity Claim?

In 2010 Michael Davis and other former NFL players filed suit in California, alleging that video game maker Electronic Arts (EA) violated their rights of publicity when it used famous teams from the past in Madden games from 2001 until 2009. In their complaint, the retired players argued that while EA obtained permission from current players to use their names and likeness, the company failed to do so with the retired players. While the former players did not allege that their names actually appeared in…

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Minnesota Judge Orders Awarded Damages in NFL Publicity Case to Remain in Escrow

On April 12, 2016, a Minnesota federal judge ordered $150,000 in payments awarded be kept in escrow in response to a request made by NFL players’ attorneys that the fees awarded to certain law firms be withheld, due to a “loan squabble.” In 2010, professional football player John Frederick Dryer filed a putative class action against the National Football League.  His main argument claimed that NFL films violated professional football players’ publicity rights and rights under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1125.  Out…

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“The Blueprint” for an Infringement?

A recently-filed case in a California federal court has Jay-Z and his promoters at Live Nation wondering whether they’ll continue to reap the benefits of the 1999 hit single Big Pimpin’ or whether they’ll be “spending G’s” to clean up a potential infringement posed by a sample looped throughout one of S. Carter’s most famous tracks.  Last week, an Egyptian plaintiff named Osama Ahmed Fahmy sued Live Nation Entertainment, Inc., seeking unspecified actual damages and costs, alleging Live Nation’s continued “use” of Big Pimpin’ in…

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Judge Dismisses Publicity Rights Lawsuit by Former NFL Players

A federal judge in Minnesota nixed a lawsuit brought by three former NFL players Fred Dryer (LA Rams), Elvin Bethea (Houston Oilers), and Ed White (Minnesota Vikings) who claimed that the NFL violated their publicity rights in using video clips of them playing football.  The players had opted out of a $50 million settlement offered in a class action suit over publicity rights of athletes. U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson found the NFL Films’ productions that featured game footage of Ram, Oilers, and Vikings were…

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Merriman Lawsuit May Be “Lights Out” for Nike

Former NFL linebacker Shawne Merriman is suing apparel giant Nike. Merriman’s company, Lights Out Holdings LLC, filed suit in California claiming that Nike infringed his trademark in “Lights Out” after Nikeintroduced a “Lights Out” line of merchandise. Merriman earned the “Lights Out” nickname in high school when he knocked out four opposing players in one game. Merriam secured a federal trademark in “Lights Out.” It has been used in several off-field ventures and is largely associated with Merriman’s persona. According to the suit, although Nike…

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Former ‘Mob Wives’ Star Sues Grand Theft Auto V Producers

Karen Gravano, former actress on the TV show Mob Wives, and daughter of real life mobster Salvatore (Sammy the Bull) Gravano, sued the Rockstar Games Co. over the use of a character in the mob-themed “Grand Theft Auto V” video game – a character Gravano asserts was modeled after her without her permission. The complaint asserts that the make-believe “Antonia Bottino” incorporated Gravano’s image and life story into the game without consulting Gravano or providing her any compensation.  The filing noted, “[n]otwithstanding the fact that…

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TV Weather Anchor Hiring Decisions Are Acts in Furtherance of Free Speech

Thanks to a California intermediate appellate court’s recent reversal of a Los Angeles County trial court, CBS is halfway towards the early dismissal of a discrimination lawsuit filed by a man CBS declined to hire for a weather anchor position.  The case is Hunter v. CBS Broadcasting Inc. The plaintiff, Kyle Hunter, filed a gender and age discrimination complaint against CBS Broadcasting Inc. asserting that CBS violated the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.  He alleges that two local CBS television stations in Los Angeles…

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$50M Settlement Approved in NFL Retirees’ Publicity Rights Suit

A Minnesota federal judge approved a $50 million settlement in a case over the publicity rights of more than 25,000 NFL retirees. Calling it a “historic settlement,” the judge stated it is “very creative and it’s very exciting to see this opportunity being provided to retired players for the first time.” Despite the objection of 19 players, on November 1, 2013, the judge granted final approval of the settlement. The judge noted that “only one-tenth of one percent of the class objected and less…

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Judge Allows NCAA Athletes’ Antitrust Claims to Proceed

A U.S. District Judge in California, Claudia Wilken, rejected all of the NCAA’s arguments to dismiss antitrust claims against it in connection with the use of student athletes’ names and likenesses.  According to the athletes, the NCAA and others are making huge profits by selling rights that should belong to the players.  On October 25, 2013, Wilken ruled that those claims could proceed to the next stage of litigation. The athletes contend that antitrust laws are applicable because they are forced to give up their…

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Ryan Hart Did Not Consent to $40 Million EA Settlement

Ryan Hart, a former Rutgers quarterback, told the New Jersey federal court that he was “completely uninformed” about negotiations and a settlement impacting his case against Electronic Arts (EA).  In his October 21, 2013 filing, Hart did not object to the settlement, but he opposed an action to replace him as the named plaintiff. The $40 million settlement, announced last month, will remove EA and the Collegiate Licensing Co. (CLC) from Hart’s case and two others if approved.  Hart’s case was filed…

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